StarTimes Uganda Premier League (SUPL) clubs managers are “equally surprised” by proposals from Fufa on reforming the game.
Fufa on Friday fronted several proposals that will affect different divisions, especially UPL clubs reducing from 16 to 12, and each top-flight team adopting an U20 side for the new reserve competition.
The FA said the proposals were approved by the Fufa executive committee after “wide scale consultations with First Division clubs, Second Division clubs, sponsors (and the) UPL management,” among others.
But most clubs this newspaper spoke to say they received the news the same time the rest of the public.
“Not if they consulted clubs but as KCCA FC, we have been lobbying for the reserve side for a couple of years as it fits well within our ambitions and the greater football good that enabled clubs to have a sustained conveyor belt of talent,” said KCCA vice chairman Aggrey Ashaba.
League size no problem
On the proposed 12 clubs, Ashaba said “a solution must match the challenge.
In this case the challenge of clubs is not league size per say, it’s rather governance and finance.
“Quality can be fixed via licensing and other regulatory frameworks. The challenge of the country is the youth buldge.
“As a sport, we must be able to create more working opportunities for the youth. Taking away four clubs is taking away over 150 direct employment opportunities in an economy with a median age of 16 years.
Proline director Mujib Kasule presented on behalf of Uganda Super League clubs in 2010 during the Jinja Declaration that birthed the current competition setup.
“At the time,” Kasule told Daily Monitor, “Fifa came to us as clubs and Fufa and suggested we reduce clubs from 18 to 12. Fifa argued that at 18 clubs, it would be difficult to get sponsorship than say, 12. But we also told them that talent wasn’t the problem as we are blessed with so much.
“Our other point was that 12 top clubs were mainly central, so that would starve the rest of the football-mad country. They listened and agreed on 16 clubs.
“It’s now surprising that Fufa is going back to 12 clubs. What is the real reason for 12 clubs? And why play three rounds?”
Starting with 2021/22 season, UPL is proposed to play three rounds instead of the current two.
“Fairness is only by either playing two rounds or four rounds,” added Kasule, “So I don’t support the 12 teams proposal.”
League leaders Vipers, who also say they were not consulted prior. “Twelve teams minimises football distribution throughout the country,” said Abdu Wasike, the Venom head of public relations.
Window of hope
Express chairman Kiryowa Kiwanuka struck a conciliatory tone, saying at least there is still a window to address a few concerns before proposals are adopted.
“(Yes) there are merits to a smaller league, especially for clubs meeting huge costs, or for the organisers and all their logistics dynamics.
“However, it reduces the opportunities for clubs, regions, individual players etc and would be a huge blow to football on the flip-side.”
SC Villa will need time to review and revert but are impressed by the U20 league proposal.
“For now, I commend Fufa for thinking about more youth football,” said the Blues CEO Shawn Mubiru.
Wakiso Giants head of corporate affairs Ismael Kiyonga said Fufa only sent the proposals for them to digest and give feedback.
“This is ridiculous since we feel clubs should have been consulted first and then debate on what have been generated later but here, it’s vice versa,” Kiyonga said.
“We have enough talent in Uganda to play in the 16 club league, why deny many a chance to play in the top division?”
The more, the merrier
Bright Stars technical director Ian Mutenda believes that a 16-club league actually means a better chance for more facilities developed, more talent tapped, and more coaches at the top level.
“I mean, who are we trying to emulate with 12 teams? Scotland or the Bundesliga? Fufa say we want to become the number one in Africa, but even the best leagues in Africa have 16 teams or more.”
Onduparaka’s Grace M. Manduru said they learnt about the development from the media, much to their disappointment.
“As key stakeholders, it would have been prudent for Fufa to gather views from clubs and then reach out to the public,” the Catterpillars communications manager said.
According to the proposals, the 2020/21 season will be a transition period, with UPL clubs starting out at the usual 16 before six are relegated, instead of the three.
This is to ensure the take-off 2021/22 season begins with 12, which include the two that will have been promoted from the Big League.
Fufa say they are open to ideas from the general public. These ideas and views, according to Fufa spokesperson Ahmed Hussein, “will be debated on at Fufa organise the review workshop before the kick-off of the 2020/2021 season.”